How to Style: Basic Cardigan & Pencil Skirt Combo for Work

The J.Crew chiffon cardigans that almost every petite blogger ordered on sale have arrived, and I liked them but didn’t love them. Elle said it simply – the arms are snug but the torso is not fitted.

Worn plainly, it’s nothing to write home about: 
Cardi: J.crew Chiffon-Placket Cardigan sz XXS in “weathered wood” – buy here (sale extended)
This is what one size up (XS) looks on me (XXS sold out in Gold while in my cart…gah!):

I am returning this as it’s too big all around. See the same color in XXS on Vicky.

In the spirit of “making it work,” I spent an hour rifling through my closet for possible pairings, and ended up recording the following video:


Variation # 1 – Tuck it In


Variation # 2 – “X” then Belt




Belt: Ann Taylor Perfect Patent Skinny Belt in Granite, sz S (extra holes punched)
Vintage “Peri” Cameo pendant: eBay
Read Kelly’s analysis of the “X-shape” for cardigans.


Variation # 3 – Open & Accessorized



Readers – Which version is your favorite? Please share your own tips on how to style the cardi & pencil skirt combo : )
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  1. Gjee wrote:

    Love 2 & 3 the most! 2 is really stunning to me though. very classy and chic! love how the gold necklace gives an extra little "oomph" to the ensemble. 🙂

    you always look so amazing in your pictures! lol stop making others feel bad! jk.. sort of. 🙂

    Posted 12.20.10 Reply
  2. I am Khatu wrote:

    I like number 2 & 3, but that's because I hate a naked neck. 🙂 when is the next PFC by the way?

    Posted 12.20.10 Reply
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    I have a question for you: you are modeling all the work clothes with beautful pumps, but how do you wear pumps to work in cold Boston winter?
    do you wear boots to work and change aonce inside at work? do you your wear boots at work? or do you walk outside with pumps?

    This is always a dilemma for me..

    Posted 12.20.10 Reply
  4. Variations #2 and #3 are my favorite although #1 is really eye catching as well 🙂 It's nice to see all the accessories in 3 to make it flirty and whimsical 🙂 It's like taking a whole new step to cardi-wear! 🙂 The belted x-shape is prim and proper 🙂 Perfect for work in the morning where you can easily transform to #3 after work 😀

    Posted 12.20.10 Reply
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    No mention about a JCREW classic ? Jackie cardigan and shell deserve some spot lights too. The twin set is a JCrew stable and a whole set is on sale for a little under $50.00 now. JCrew had updated the cardigan with a shorter body length and 3/4 sleeves. The fit (xxs) is TTS without overly form fitting.
    5 ft. barefoot, small bone and weight 98 to 100 lbs.

    Posted 12.20.10 Reply
  6. I love PAG, nuff said 🙂

    Posted 12.20.10 Reply
  7. Cat at UW wrote:

    Similar to everyone else, I also like #2 and #3. They are easy, tried-and-true looks. #1 is interesting. Have you thought of adding a medium to wide width belt?

    Posted 12.20.10 Reply
  8. I really like how you styled it in #2 and #3.

    Very flattering and definitely more interesting than the "default".

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  9. Connie wrote:

    I like look #2. I love to belt my cardigans; I think its much more figure flattering. I also like the way you looped your skinny belt in look #3…will have to try that next time.

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  10. I like all three looks. Gorgeous as always. It could look more edgy with a belt for No.1. Oh, you look so much better with weathered wood than gold I think. I'm glad I chose the same color. Can't wait for my shipment. 🙂

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  11. Jackie wrote:

    I really can't decide between #1 and #2. I think They both look great on you and I love the colors in all 3 outfits. I never thought on tucking a cardigan in with my top before…

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  12. Ping wrote:

    jean — i actually like all 3 combos! i think my favorite is the 3rd look and that is probably how i'd wear it. your hair looks really shiny and silky in the video btw — any secrets?

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  13. yuri chung wrote:

    ive been a follower of your blog for a while and i love seeing your classic style 🙂
    i was interested in the xs in the gold but its sold out online.. if you didnt send it back, wold you be willing to sell it?
    if so, let me know please at chungy3 at gmail dot com


    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  14. kileen wrote:

    my favorite look is definitely #2!! i love the X-shape and find it that it's definitely the most figure flattering. the color of both cardigans is beautiful but the XS does look way too big on you. i get my order in on Monday and am anxious to see how it fits on me too — hopefully the arms won't be too tight!

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  15. Irene wrote:

    Hey Jean – I am constantly amazed as to how you purchase things online and they look great on you! I guess it's all about really knowing your size (which is probably the smallest available in most stores), what suits you best, and not being fooled by how crazygood it looks on the model. I just have had horrible luck for the most part. ;_;

    As for the J.Crew cardigan – I am surprised by how much I love the tucked-in look! Fab! Also loving the skinny belt.

    Total BOO to things being sold out in your cart as you are purchasing. I have been a victim as well. -_-

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  16. Excellent video Jean! I sent you an email 😉

    I like all 3 variations but I think #3 is the most interesting to me probably because of the pearls 😛

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  17. Annapurna wrote:

    I like all three variations – it is really hard to pick one! Each has its own charms.

    I like #1 for its chic simplicity (I envision hair in a chignon and some pretty dangling earrings). #3 elongates you in a way that #1 and #2 don't. (Although #1 and #2 would accomplish this if the sweater was grey). #2 looks like the most comfortable for work (don't have to worry about bumps from tucking it in).

    I didn't think the XXS small looked too big on you but I generally prefer a looser fit for my cardigans. I agree with you that, to be paired with a pencil skirt and dresses, they look better fitted, but fitted, high quality ones are So.Hard.To.Find.

    I think J crew needs new petite fit models or at least a range. Who do they have who has stick thin arms but a thicker torso? Wait a minute – maybe their petite fit model is PREGNANT.

    I am due in March (a boy!). If you ever find yourself in the North End, shoot me a line. I think I should start a blog called "Plight of the Pregnant Petite." I already have two jobs and will soon have a third (mom!) – otherwise I would!!! Maternity clothes are Le Suck anyway and make me look like a knocked-up orphan. Necklines are too low, shoulders to wide, length is too long – yadayadayada. The only stuff that fits is $$$$$$ – and who wants to waste $$ on stuff you can only wear for a few months and when you don't "know" what size you will be. I couldn't even stomach the idea of paying $40 for an Old Navy coat because I knew I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole aftet Jr. arrives. Wish I could just wear a burka and be done with it.

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  18. You look very good in all the ways you have styled the look, but I must say I like it tucked into the pencil skirt the best.

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  19. Tara wrote:

    I like options 2 and 3….I agree, that gold cardi definitley looks too big. Even though you weren't thrilled with the fit of the cardi, I think you still managed to pull it off and look great styling the weathered wood cardi! I own a similar cardi from there last year, I actually wore it the other day here:

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  20. PetiteXXS wrote:

    My J.Crew shipment finally came too! I agree with everyone about the fit, it's surprising how tight the sleeve cuffs are. I loved the gold color, probably because I've never tried anything in mustard yellow on before and was surprised at how much I like it on me. For $21, I'd definitely keep at least one or two, but not sure which colors yet.

    My favorite is #2, probably because I think the accessories were juust right, but I'd probably wear the other variations too 🙂

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  21. Jen wrote:

    Ohhh, I can see what everyone means by "okay but not awesome" on the fit. Oh well, that's how I've come to accept all cardis to be on me and I do like the contrast of the ruffle on the weathered wood, so hopefully it looks as nice in person too!

    #2 is my favorite as well!

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  22. mich LA wrote:

    Aww that's too bad about the gold sweater selling out! Hate when something disappears while it's already in your cart! I really love the freshness of that color on you! Good work with this cardi though! I really like the vibrant pop of the pearls and belt in version #3 up there! They definitely brighten up the rest of the outfit.

    OMG, I need to stop procrastinating on getting my exotic skirt tailored. It looks so freaking good on you!!

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  23. Jean, I love love love what you did for #2. Small differences can make a HUGE difference! I think #2 looks perfectly proportioned and makes you look even taller.

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  24. I like all 3 variations but #1 and 2 are my favorites! I got the same cardigans in the same colors but returned weathered wood because I was expecting more of a rusty red and mine looked brown. I wore my cardi over a shell but under a blazer to hide the loose torso (post to come!).

    Posted 12.19.10 Reply
  25. Cee wrote:

    I love the 3rd look. It might be the clever accessorizing though. I also like the first look because tucking the cardi in seems to hide the bagginess. If you styled the first look with the accessories of the 3rd, that might be my favorite look!

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  26. Thao wrote:

    I really like it open, but perhaps that's also because I really like the necklaces that complement it. With a belt also looks nice too.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  27. Ada wrote:

    I loved variation 1! I never thought of tucking in cardigans, will definitely try that someday in the future.
    I'm a new reader of about a few months, and I'm so glad I found your blog! I've been VERY slowly building my work wardrobe (like yours!) but haven't found ways to make it look "exciting" and interesting yet. I love your style, and it's definitely given me many ideas on how to dress for work! Thanks for your posts, and keep them coming!

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  28. Callandra wrote:

    Hi Jean, Variation 2 is definitely my favorite! I'm a little worried after seeing that cardi on you because I ordered it last night in the same color! Hopefully it will be a tad more fitted on me….fingers crossed 😉

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  29. Elle wrote:

    I like all three ways of how you styled it (especially the third, I think…hard to choose a favorite). The xs is much too big on you…in fact, the xxs seems rather big on you too but you've successfully masked that fact through the clever ways you wore this.

    I saw/picked up a few of the Gap cowl neck sweaters you reviewed a while back for $12ish ($19.99 and then additional 40% in stores) and got the larger sizes for my mom and then proceeded to show her your video. She is in awe of how pretty you are (I had to remind her that you have a very sweet bf…I have an older brother so I don't want to give her any ideas. 🙂 )

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  30. Petite Mom wrote:

    I like how you styled the cardigan! I think you look terrific in all three variations. I like #2 the best, then #3, and last #1. #1 looks nice too but it's a little plain compared to the other two…it needs some accessory to jazz it up…hmm, maybe a chain belt.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  31. Sometimes I still add a belt outside of the skirt when wearing it like Variation #1. Man, belts are so necessary in order to create that hourglass figure on petites.

    Since purchasing the belt puncher, I feel so fearless to walk over to the belt section and just go for the one I like w/o worrying that it wont fit.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  32. lil_budoy wrote:

    i think i like style #2…i dont know…it looks simple but i love it…

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  33. lil_budoy wrote:

    i love ur pencil skirt…the way u wear it looks absolutely perfect.i like how you combine each items…really nice.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  34. Kellie wrote:

    "by underwear I don't mean dinky panties" LOL JEAN! You're so funny <3!

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  35. You're right. There wasn't anything special about this cardigan in the first picture. You made it look very attractive. I love all the variations but my favorite is # 2. I sure will try to recreate that look with my cardigans. Excellent post. I love it 🙂

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  36. That is too bad that those sweaters are not all that fitted. I ordered those as well and they haven't come yet. It does look super cute with the skinny belt.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  37. TinyInTX wrote:

    Love 2 and 3!! I will probably wear mine all of these ways. Great job styling these!

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  38. Ah yes…the "X" sweater trick…my fav. =)
    That's pretty much how the sweaters look on me too, but I love the colors, and they look nice 1/2 buttoned like you have it in variation #2, so I'm keeping them. The weathered wood really surprised me, and I think I like it more than the gold! Still have to take pics…driving up to LA totally messed up my photo taking schedule. =P

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  39. I like how you style it in #2.
    Is the pencil skirt that big in size xxs that you have it taken in? That's a lot of work for a pencil skirt. They should come in your size.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  40. Stylepint wrote:

    I think all three variations are good and perfect for work. For variation 1, I'd add a belt over the skirt so it's not so plain. And for variation 3, I'd probably shorten the pearl strands so it doesn't clash with the belt. Just personal preference.

    Great going with the how to style posts! =)

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  41. Yvette wrote:

    The belted cardigan really suits you. In fact, I think I'm just going to cave and buy the cardigan in that great gold color. Can you tell me how the XS fits in the sleeves? Were they too long as well? They don't look too bad in the picture, but it's a little hard to tell.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  42. The "weathered wood" colour looks so fab on you! Definitely a keeper. I hope it shrinks a bit! I LOVE it tucked in!! My 2nd fave would be the belted outfit. 😀

    I need a nicely fitted pencil skirt like yours. I'm not actively looking for one, but I've been checking out a few stores for an affordable one. Yours fits you so well!

    xx The Little Dust Princess

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  43. Eva wrote:

    I love combo 2 & 3! i love your style!

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  44. Michelle wrote:

    For this particular cardign, I love 3 the best! It shows off the pretty ruffles of the cardigan. 🙂

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  45. R wrote:

    My favorite is Variation #1. You're the first person I've seen to tuck cardigans into skirts and I think that's absolutely genius. So simple, yet unique and classy!

    I was also going to order both the Weathered Wood and Gold in XXS but I took too much time deciding on filler items that the Gold XXS sold out for me too!

    I am sending mine back because the arms are snug to the point that I can't comfortably wear a long-sleeved shirt underneath it (a must for me) and I'm weary about the delicate buttons on the ruffles. But you look so great in the variations that I just might reconsider, lol. By the way, I'm "RLLater" on Twitter.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  46. Variation #2 is my favorite, but I think they all work wonderfully on you!

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  47. I like #2 the best. That's how I usually wear my cardigans. 🙂

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  48. I love your style. It's so classy and elegant. I definately like style #2. You've made it fit really nicely.

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  49. Vicky wrote:

    Yes, Jean, the xs is way too big. I'm not very optimistic about my upcoming shipment. Are the sleeves on xxs too tight on you too? My favorite variation is definitely #2. Second favorite #3. I'm still not too much into tucked in cardi look, yet. 🙂 I think this weatherwood color looks better on you than the gold one anyways.
    On another note, how did you take indoor pictures without having a shadow behind you? It's driving me crazy. I still haven't figured out the ideal recipe yet for indoor pictures. 🙁

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply
  50. Angie wrote:

    2 and 3 are definitely my faves. i watched the video and thought meh the torso is still not very fitted but then magic! you do great work with skinny belts 🙂 this was a super helpful post! thanks jean

    Posted 12.18.10 Reply

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